CYPRUS loves to organise events that gain it entry into the Guinness Book of Records. Earlier this week Ayia Napa municipality announced that next month there would be an attempt to break the world record for the number of people participating in a zeimbekiko dance, while eight years ago it a set a record for the longest chain of syrtaki dancers – 268 but broken since.
This week we heard of another world record we have set, unknowingly, but it will not earn Cyprus entry into the Guinness Book. Nowhere in the world did it take as long to deal with the procedures necessary to build a warehouse as in Cyprus in 2014. According to the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2015, issued by the World Economic Forum, Cyprus was bottom of the list of 141 countries “for total number of days required to deal with the procedures necessary to build a warehouse”.
In Cyprus, 677 days – one year and 10 months – are needed on average to complete the procedures, whereas in 135 of the countries in the list it took less than a year. In similar-size EU countries like Malta and Luxembourg it takes less than six months, while Singapore, a very successful centre of international business, is top of the list with just 26 days needed for the procedures to be completed. The aim of the above report is to establish the competitiveness of countries by looking at different indicators and thus help them improve their competitiveness.
Why does it take so long to issue permits for a warehouses in Cyprus? It is certainly not because of staff shortages as all public departments are over-staffed. Slow bureaucratic procedures and inefficiency are a more plausible explanation, but why has no government tackled a problem everyone is aware of? The lamentable failure to of successive governments to computerise the public service and take it into the electronic age is another probable explanation; that may have reduced average waiting times by a few weeks.
The long waiting times are also a reason for the many illegalities regarding constructions. Rather than wait for a couple of years for their permits, many people build only to find out when the permit is issued that they have violated its provisions. It is a totally dysfunctional system that needs to be tackled immediately. Will the public service reform that is currently being in progress address these scandalous delays, or will there have to be more negotiations to persuade civil servants to work more efficiently?
Apart from causing big problems for businesses and residents, this unwelcome record, is not the way to attract foreign companies and investment from abroad. For decades we have been hearing governments talking about speeding up public service procedures, but it is time words were turned into deeds, unless we are targeting an entry into Guinness Book of Records as the most inefficient bureaucracy.